DUBAI // Ahmed Al Musharrekh, the UAE's best golfer, has become the first Emirati to turn professional.
Al Musharrekh's first tournament as a professional will be the 2012 Mena Tour opener, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Open, starting on September 24.
"It has always been my dream to play as a professional and I am glad that I have finally made the decision," said the Sharjah-born 21 year old. "I am really proud of my achievements with the UAE national team, but feel the time has come to move on to newer and bigger challenges."
Al Musharrekh was part of the UAE squad that won gold at the pan-Arab Games last December and triumphed in the GCC Championship in March, while he took individual titles in both events.
Since winning the UAE National Championship in 2008, his first major tournament victory, he has gone from strength to strength.
He was first player from the UAE to qualify for the Egyptian Open, a European Challenge Tour event, in October 2010.
Al Musharrekh also featured in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic on a sponsor's invitation and shot a level-par 72 in the second round before missing the cut by just three shots.
The youngster, who attended the David Leadbetter Academy in the United States in 2008 as part of a Sheikh Maktoum Golf Foundation scholarship, follows in the footsteps of UAE-based Joel Neale and Scotland's Greg Nicholson, who both used the first event of the 2011 Mena Golf Tour to launch their professional careers.
"I have a tremendous passion and respect for the game of golf and can't wait for the challenge of taking my game to the next level," Al Musharrekh said.
"It will be great to play my first event as a professional at Dubai Creek which is my home course, having taken my first golf lesson there as a six-year-old boy. I hope I can live up to expectations. I will try and give it my best shot.
"At the end of the day, it's the score on your card that counts and not the local knowledge."
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the chairman of the Mena Golf Tour, said: "It's good to see top players from the region - and even outside of it - are turning to the tour to advance their careers which augurs well for the overall development of the game in this part of the world.
"Ahmed's decision to turn pro shows the self-confidence that the emerging players have in their game which means they are already halfway there in realising their goals.
"I wish Ahmed the very best and hope he will continue to bring laurels for the country."
The Mena Tour this year consists of six events, five in the UAE and one in Saudi Arabia.
The top three professionals and the leading amateur from their respective Orders of Merit will receive special invitations to compete in the 2013 Dubai Desert Classic. In addition, the top amateur will be awarded a Sheikh Maktoum Golf Foundation scholarship.
MENA TOUR DATES
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club Open
September 30-October 3
Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open, Saadiyat Golf Club
Dirab Golf & Country Club, Saudi Arabia
Ras Al Khaimah Classic, Tower Links Golf Club
Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open, Al Badia Golf Club
Mena Tour Championship, Al Ain Equestrian Shooting & Golf Club
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